IRS clears the United Church of Christ

Back in February, CCP published a blog post discussing an IRS investigation into whether or not the United Church of Christ engaged in prohibited politicking when it invited Barack Obama to speak before a crowd of nearly 10,000 in Hartford, CT.

At the time, CCP wrote, "Why is the IRS wasting its time focusing on candidate speech in the first place?  The electioneering restrictions on religious (and secular) non-profits are intended to prevent houses of worship from turning into de facto arms of political parties and campaigns.  Congress feared the transubstantiation of holy places into tax-exempt political slush funds, not candidate religious free speech. 

Under anyone’s interpretation, the politicization that Congress sought to prevent was not present in Hartford that day.  The Civic Center was not filled with pro-Obama placards, buttons, signs, or leaflets.  Contributions were not made or solicited on behalf of the Obama campaign. Yes, Obama supporters set up tables outside the arena where he was speaking.  However, that act cannot be fairly attributed to the UCC."

Today, BNA reports that the IRS has cleared the UCC of any improper politicking.

According to BNA, "Among the factors that persuaded IRS that there was no campaign intervention was that the invitation to Obama was issued in May of 2006, well before he announced his candidacy, and that he was invited to speak in a non-candidate capacity, on how his personal faith intersected with his public life.

The church verbally communicated to those in attendance that Obama was there as a member of the church and not as a candidate for office, and that the audience should not attempt to engage in any political activities, the IRS said. The church’s legal counsel had also advised Obama’s campaign of the ground rules before the speech, according to the church’s information.

Furthermore, the church said it did not authorize or have power to authorize campaign volunteers for Obama to set up tables near the entrance to the Hartford Civic Center. The activity was conducted on public property outside the control of the synod and therefore was not attributable to the church, the church said."

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.